Eugenia Lim and Yaya Sung
A show that managed to open just before the shutdown was ‘Crossroads/Titik Temu’ at Bus Projects. Curated by Bianca Winataputri, the exhibition is intended to commence a curatorial series facilitating exchange between artists from Indonesia and Australia. ‘Crossroads/Titik Temu’ is a two-hander, presenting a selection of works by Melbourne-based Eugenia Lim and Jakarta-based Yaya Sung.
From Lim, several familiar works are presented, including the video piece Australian Landscapes (2010), featuring Lim, an Australian artist of Chinese-Singaporean descent, dressed as a Miranda type-figure from Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and moving through Australian landscapes, from the bush to the suburban dream home. Production stills from Lim’s 2018 project The Australian Ugliness are presented, documenting Lim performing in a Mao-esque gold lamé suit in contexts alluding to aspects of the Asian-Australian narrative, including Lim leaning on the Yellow Peril sculpture, and cleaning a public bathroom. The gold suit itself hangs in the middle of the room.
Given that Lim’s projects are so multi-layered, it is difficult to glean meaning from these stills and ephemera alone. Lim has described her work as being driven by an interest in the intersection between ‘aesthetics and ethics’. Indeed, her approach appears to be research driven, often prompted by a particular problem or question that drives a course of inquiry. Since early projects such as the 2012 work Stay Home Sakoku: The Hikikomori Project – which saw Lim live in a gallery at the (former former) West Space gallery site enacting a mini seven day period of the ‘hikikomori’ lifestyle – Lim has committed herself to processes of investigating social questions through performance and relationship and community building.
A similar approach seems to drive Yaya Sung’s practice. Prominently positioned in the space is Sung’s Study of sanity: Flexuous (2015 and 2019), an installation of fabric prints featuring a woman (presumably the artist) performing yoga asanas, pinned to the gallery wall in such a way that the poses and limbs are partially concealed and layered one upon the other. Also from Sung, a series of banners are presented which state: ‘THE PAST IS NOT DEAD. IT IS NOT EVEN PAST’. And ‘ART, ALIENATION and the HUMANITIES’. These works were developed while Sung was in residence at Treasure Hill Artist Residency in Taipei in 2016, struggling to connect with the local community. Sung connected the feeling of being ‘unwanted’ with her experience of being an Indonesian of Chinese descent, and her particular relationship to the history of anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia. These questions of identity and belonging are an ongoing feature of Sung’s practice, with other works, such as The Victory Road photograph series, addressing the issue more explicitly.
In the text accompanying ‘Crossroads/Titik Temu’, Winaputri seeks to emphasise a shared approach to artistic process as the most salient connection between these two artists, beyond the obvious similarities of both artists being women who occupy contested identity positions within their respective countries, and use their bodies in their works to explore broader social questions.
On the measure of artistic process, Sung’s work benefits from the pairing with Lim’s, whose practice is more established, especially in an Australian context, and whose process is more extensive and rigorous. The documentation of previous works presented in this exhibition acts as a kind of snapshot of a series of Lim’s projects, the richness suggesting that Lim is an artist working at a different level of engagement with the questions she raises. Nevertheless, Lim’s practice also benefits from consideration of its place within a broader regional context. Future iterations of this project – and hopefully it can continue – will be interesting in inviting close consideration of resonances in the work of emerging and mid-career artists from Indonesia and Australia.
Anusha Kenny is a writer and lawyer based in Naarm/Melbourne.